In The Darkness: Part 20 – Iridescent

When you were standing in the wake of devastation
When you were waiting on the edge of the unknown
And with the cataclysm raining down
Insides crying, “Save me now!”
You were there, impossibly alone
Do you feel cold and lost in desperation?
You build up hope, but failure’s all you’ve known
Remember all the sadness and frustration
And let it go. Let it go

— Iridescent, Linkin Park

Author’s Notes: The title of this chapter comes from the Linkin Park song by the same name. Harry Potter fans may find the mentioned wand familiar.

The quote “Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give.” can be attributed to Ben Carson.

Rating: Adult

Disclaimer: Own nothing whatsoever regarding Buffy or Angel. Joss & co. owns all. Elise is my creation.

Pairing: B/A, mentions of A/Other (aka, A/OC)

Distribution: My site, EverySixSeconds; sites currently with permission to host this fic; all others please ask.

Originally Posted: September 20, 2015

Revised & Reposted: October 3, 2015

“I like the new ‘do. Low-lights, right?”

“Thanks, and yeah,” Buffy’s reply was muffled as she took a big slurp of whip cream off the top of her mochaccino.

“How’d Angel take to the idea of you leaving?” Xander leaned his chair back on two legs. He was happy they were able to find a table outside at the busy coffee shop on such a nice day. It was several blocks down from the Wolfram & Hart office, and just across from the beach.

“He…” the blonde Slayer sighed. The last few days hadn’t been easy for either of them. She vacillated from feelings of anger and betrayal to missing him and doubting that leaving had been the right thing to do, but she was determined to take some time to figure it all out and to heal. It was going to be no small matter to sort out her convoluted feelings. “…understood.”

“Ah-huh. The twenty-four by seven surveillance – that kind of understood?” Xander asked with a touch of a grin. He had never been a fan of the dark vampire, but for Buffy’s sake he was glad the President of Wolfram & Hart was concerned for her safety and seemed to be keeping a watchful eye.

Buffy snorted. It was true some rotation of Spike, Wes and Angel had her near constant shadows. They’d make conversation when they conveniently ran into her; they’d follow at a discreet distance when she left the apartment, but otherwise they were respectful of her desire to be on her own. She didn’t particularly like it, but Angel had managed to get her to agree to the accompanying detail as a temporary condition. When she was fully recovered, they’d renegotiate – that is, assuming he still insisted on the same level of surveillance in Europe. “He’s overprotective.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes before Xander finally asked the question that had been on the tip of his tongue. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Buffy looked away and shook her head. She didn’t need any clarification what he was asking. “No, not really.”

Xander sighed, both relieved and a bit remorseful. He’d never been particularly good when it came to knowing what to say even in the best of times, and while he didn’t know the details of what Buffy had gone through, he suspected it was way beyond his wheelhouse of platitudes and comfort words. Still, he wished he were the kind of guy who knew what to say and he couldn’t help but feel bad he wasn’t. “But you’re doing okay? I mean, you seem good.”

“I am.” Buffy sighed. Physically, she was getting stronger every day; slayer healing and strength came back rapidly. Emotionally, though… she was getting really good at finding distractions to keep her from having to deal with what was going on in her head or her heart.

Xander nodded agreeably, accepting her answer even though he knew she wasn’t being completely honest.

“So, have you seen Willow?” Buffy asked, changing the subject. She’d heard from her friend only once since she had made the decision to join Giles and the others in Tuscany, and the red haired Wiccan had seemed almost overly cheerful in the exchange.

“Willow and I… we don’t really keep in touch, not any more,” he shrugged, tilting forward in his chair and shaking the milk foam around in his almost empty cup.

Buffy studied her high school friend; she often forgot that in some ways Xander was the bravest of them all – no atypical strength, no witchcraft, no special powers, and yet he stayed and fought alongside the rest of them when Sunnydale was destroyed. He had suffered along with them as well; he lost his family, the sight in one eye, and Anya, the woman he loved.

“After Sunnydale and Anya, and then the whole resurrection thing with Tara… well, I just try to keep my distance you know, from witchcraft and other stuff that might poke my one good eye out.”

“Resurrection thing with Tara?” Buffy toyed absently with the silver and jade ring she was wearing. She missed the Claddagh ring Angel had given her, but then it was only one of the many things lost in recent events.

“You knew… about that… right?”

“No. What are you talking about, resurrection thing?” Buffy’s gaze snapped back to Xander’s face.

“Willow, Tara, attempted resurrection?” Tilting his head to look at her directly with his good eye, Xander held out his hands in appeal. “Not ringing a bell?”

“Nope, no ringing. Not even a bell. ‘splain please?” Frowning, Buffy shook her head, her brow furrowed in concern.

“You really… don’t… know?” It dawned on him then why Buffy was confused, and he flushed, putting his palm on his forehead. “Ah, that’s right, that happened right after you were…” He paused, feeling increasingly awkward as he searched for the right words.

“Xander, it doesn’t matter. Just tell me, what are you talking about?” she insisted impatiently.

“Okay, okay, all I know… or what I think I know from what I could make out of all of it, was that Willow tried to bring Tara back. It wasn’t long after you were… gone. She went into hiding, wouldn’t leave her apartment for a couple of weeks, maybe more. I thought she was just sad, you know, about you, and about us not being able to find you. So I stopped by her place to check on her. She was … I don’t know how to say exactly. It was like she was burned or something, all pale and kind of well, mentally broken. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me, the things she said that night… it was just some kind of Willow babble about broken promises, and white magic, and Tara coming back, but then she said something about Tara not wanting to come back, that she wouldn’t let her, that her magic was too strong, but she tried… then she said she needed to be alone and practically pushed me out of her apartment.” Xander paused, needing to inhale after blurting all of that out in practically one breath.

“A week or so later, she comes in the bar when I’m workin’, kind of her old self again – still though a little paler than I remember, but I thought it was just, you know, normal for what was going on. I mean, it wasn’t a good time for any of us… Anyway, so she says all the stuff she said was nothing, and I should just forget all about what she said, anything I saw. She said she was fine, that she had just been upset and wasn’t sure really what she was saying.” He trailed off, reminded that he had felt more than a little intimidated at the time… when she said he should forget it had sounded more like a threat than just a dismissive comment. He later thought he must have imagined it, but he still kept his distance from his high school friend.

Buffy frowned, uncertain what to think or say but bothered by what she was hearing. Willow had sworn time and again she was no longer practicing magic, not even harmless enchantments – yet even before any of this, Buffy knew that not to be true. And now, if what Xander thought was true, the former Wiccan was truly former no more; she was dabbling with some seriously dark arts.

“I decided to stick with the plan to keep my eye, and the rest of my limbs, out of harms way, so I let it go. I didn’t know what I could do anyway,” Xander shrugged. He had been miserable and depressed over Buffy’s disappearance himself; he didn’t know how he could have helped Willow even if he had wanted to.

“I hoped maybe it was some reaction to grief, and just a one time only thing. I only saw her once, maybe twice after that.” Shifting on his seat, he looked away, a bit flustered even now. “Besides, the bar keeps me pretty busy…”

Buffy ran a hand over her eyes thoughtfully; she should bring this up with Angel. He should know if Willow was again practicing magic, especially in her position within Wolfram & Hart, or as she often referred to them, Evil, Inc. Or maybe she should just talk to Willow herself and find out what happened.

She sighed. Either choice would have to wait until later. Right now she planned to do nothing more than to indulge in a leisurely afternoon spent in the company of an old friend, along with her mochaccino, and the much missed afternoon sunshine and the sounds and smells of the beach.


“You said you handled it.”

He spoke without turning around. Instead, Marcus Hamilton continued his perusal of the contents of the armoire as the Information Services Director entered her office.

Willow’s eyes narrowed as she took note of her unexpected – and unwanted – guest. The armoire, she thought irritably, had been locked.

“You’ll have to be more specific. I handle a lot of your shit these days,” the red haired woman retorted, plucking the walnut wand with the dragon heartstring core out of his hand. She wrapped it carefully in black silk before returning it to the ivory case where it had been.

“Elise Seymour turned up at St. Vincent’s hospital.” The Senior Partner liaison replied calmly, adjusting the cuffs of his shirt.

“And?” Willow asked archly, taking a seat at her desk. She opened her laptop and rapidly typed to remove the password protection.

“Much to my surprise, she’s alive, albeit barely. A fact that hasn’t escaped the notice of your esteemed colleagues.”

“I still don’t see the problem,” she replied, not looking up as she instead scanned something on the screen then rapidly began typing a response.

“Then that in and of itself, is a problem. Her unexpected appearance hardly seems to fall in the category of handled.” Marcus countered, casually crossing the room to toy with the antique Staunton chess set that was placed on the credenza. Absently he noted there seemed to be a piece or two missing. “Dobryshkin seems to have been turned up as well. Another thing you… handled.”

“Yes, but Serge is dead, and now buried. Very much not a problem.” Willow snorted. “Elise, alive, serves a purpose.”

“Do tell.”

“You, the Senior Partners – you want Angel and Buffy apart, right? There’s your wedge in that happily ever after.”

“I hardly see how a badly injured, practically comatose woman will be any sort of obstruction.”

“She’s estranged from her mother, and has no other family to speak of. Angel’s guilt and sense of obligation is a surefire guarantee he’ll sign up to take care of her. And that is not a threesome Buffy will be willing to live with. She knows he was screwing the woman, which is enough insult to injury – she is going to share Angel with her, not even with her as a vegetable. She’s already packing to leave; she has a flight booked to Rome a week from Thursday.”

“I don’t share your blasé sense of confidence.” Marcus chastised mildly, turning around to look at her.

Willow sat back in her chair, her gaze speculative. “Then what, exactly are you suggesting I should do? Kill her?”

“What’s another body in your wake?” The Senior Partner Liaison shrugged. “Though it is only a matter of time before Angel and his cohorts track Dobryshkin back here to this department.”

“They already did. I told them what they needed to know, and all of the paperwork they will ever find supports that. He was a good and ambitious System Admin who worked here, and he quit without notice. Once they bother to check his still existing bank accounts, especially those in Grand Cayman – which they will – they will come to the conclusion that he lived outside his means and could be bought by the Council for dirty deeds. Perhaps he’s still in Grand Cayman, though the transactions on the account suggest he’s been traveling – mostly in Asia. That loose end has been tied.”

Marcus snorted. He would have to admit, she was rather thorough – but the fact that they needed to cover their tracks at all was sloppy. “It’s hardly reliable.”

“It’s effective. And besides, the Council members that could link anything back to the Senior Partners are all gone; Angel and Buffy are splitting up together; their baby is…gone,” Willow stared at the man across from her intently, searching his expression and his body language. Finally, she continued, “So, it seems to me that the Senior Partners have what everything they wanted. And, it also seems to me, it’s time to remind them of what they promised.”

“I highly doubt they’ll be ready to confer any… gratitude until all of this is a bit more… resolved. After all, Buffy may be leaving, but as of this moment they’re both still living in the penthouse. She’s here every day and he’s close at hand every night. It’s only a matter of time before their… primitive instincts… are aroused, as has happened so predictably in the past, so pardon me if I don’t see your plan – having a comatose woman come between them – as being permanent or foolproof.”

“I told you, it’s only temporary. Buffy is leaving Los Angeles. And she isn’t coming back – I’ve seen it.”

Marcus studied Willow closely, noting that she was serious. He approached the desk, sitting down in the chair opposite her. “You’ve seen it? What exactly have you seen? And how?”

Willow picked up the black chess piece sitting on the desk at her elbow, and looked at it for a moment. She set the knight carefully aside, taking care to place it precisely back where it had been. “Why should I? When there’s no possibility of… gratitude?”

’Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give.’ I’m not sure it’s true, but I heard that somewhere.”

Rolling her eyes, the Wiccan shifted, crossing her legs beneath the desk.

“Tell me how you know, and I’ll speak to the Senior Partners on your behalf.”

Shaking her head, Willow replied, “Don’t bother. You see, I’ve seen that as well… you, the Senior Partners… you never give me what you promised. I don’t think you ever even intended to.”

Marcus sat back calmly and clasped his hands together in front of him. He took a small amulet on a chain out of his pocket, twilling it around in his fingers, as he seemed to be considering his response. “Yes, well, I will confess that we have discussed that at length and there is some concern that you’re…” he lifted his gaze, meeting Willow’s dark eyed stare. “…unstable.”

She raised her eyebrows. “Unstable?”

“The jealousy and resentment you’ve been harboring for so long… it’s led you to betray your best friend,” he stated serenely.

“You’re fucking kidding me,” she snapped, her spine straightening as she sat forward. Her foot began tapping under the desk in a slow menacing cadence, and she once again toyed with the ebony sculpted horse.

Marcus raised one eyebrow fractionally, “Am I?”

“You think you’re going to make me the scapegoat here?”

“Angel and his Scooby gang of misfits all know you’ve been dabbling with magic. You’ve been careless – more than once. And now the trail of bodies leads back to you. You used an employee in your own department to aide in Buffy’s abduction. It will hardly come as a surprise when the rest of the story is told.” His tone was clipped and precise. He always had a contingency plan; it was part of the job. And this was turning out much better than he expected. Willow had motivation and opportunity. It would almost be a simple matter to explain away what happened. Angel would then close the case and they would go back to business as usual.

Willow calmly rose to her feet. She plucked the chess piece off her desk along with the moonstone, rolling the latter in the palm of one hand.

“The fact is, you lied to me. The Senior Partners lied to me. You used me to get what you, and what they, wanted.”

“Used you? You willingly signed up for what was asking, wanting to get what you wanted in return. Don’t pretend you were some simple pawn in this.” Marcus Hamilton shifted, crossing one leg languidly over the other. The Wiccan always tended to have a flair for the dramatic.

“You probably even planned this from the very beginning, setting me up to take the fall for your short-sighted scheme.” Her eyes darkened and she held the ebony knight out in the flat of her hand. “And now you’ll regret it.”

“Will I?”

“Oh yes, you will.”

She slammed the crystal into the ground, and the moonstone shattered, splintering into dozens of tiny pieces and casting the room into a cloud of blue and grey smoke.

The next thing Marcus Hamilton heard in the smoky, darkened room was an eerie laugh.


“Hey Giles,” Buffy greeted as she answered the phone. “And before you ask, no, I have not miraculously developed ESP. I have this Caller ID app thingy on my now smarter than I am phone.”

Giles chuckled softly, pleased that Buffy seemed to be in good spirits. “How are you doing?”

“Better every day,” she replied, propping her bare feet on the small table in front of the sofa.

“I’m very glad to hear it,” The former Watcher shifted the phone to his other ear as he absently picked up a pen from the desk.

“How’s everyone there?” The slayer’s tone dropped, her thoughts somber as she thought of her sister slayers and what they, too, had suffered.

“Remarkably well, all things considered,” Giles answered with a tilt of his head. “There will be, as you well know, some lasting psychological effects, but physically everyone is well on the way to recovery. Much like you, still working on getting their strength and stamina back, honing their skills.”

“That’s really great,” Buffy murmured, genuinely pleased by the news.

“Yes, yes, it is. And you being here, well, that is going to be an enormous help to everyone. We’re all looking forward to your arrival. Dawn has already been putting flowers in your room and stocking up on chocolates she will insist you try.”

Laughing, Buffy said, “She knows I won’t be there for a few more days, right?”

“I’ve reminded her of that several times, but there’s no dampening her enthusiasm. I’ve no doubt she’ll have new flowers, along with the chocolates and her favorite pastries all waiting for you. There’s a bakery here she’s particularly fond of.”

Smiling, Buffy shifted the phone to her opposite ear. “I think she’s more fond of one of the boys working in the bakery than what they are serving, but in the interest of sisterly bonding I’m willing to give the pastries a shot.”

Giles chuckled. Sighing and removing his glasses, he pinched the bridge of his nose. “Buffy… I’ve been giving it a lot of thought, and I have decided that Angel is right.”

Buffy’s brows lifted at the abrupt change of subject. “Okay. Right about what exactly…?”

“About the Council. That I should… that I should reform it.”

She was quiet for a long moment, her feelings on the Council and related topics fraught with emotion and less than positive. “Really?”

“It’s not without reservations, of course, but I think so, yes. It’s best I put people I trust in place before anyone else has a chance to get organized now that there is a, shall we say, vacuum in leadership,” he confirmed, becoming more certain now that he was voicing his thoughts aloud.

“They had an extensive and valuable collection of records, books, artifacts, and the like. As you know, my own library has been decimated and the recovery of any of those could be invaluable.” He paused, his own passion for the history of the materials obvious in his voice. He easily would have been a librarian or archivist, regardless of his calling as a Watcher. Clearing his throat, he continued, “There are no guarantees, of course, but I also believe it will be safer for the girls, for you, for all of us really.”

After considering the idea for almost a full minute, Buffy finally agreed. “I think you’re right.”

The former Watcher exhaled, unaware that he had been holding his breath for her response.

Picking a spec of lint off her sleeve, the Slayer continued, “It seems like the best way to ensure that things go… the way you want them to go. I mean, why let someone else drive the bus?”

“Ah, well, I don’t think we need a bus-”

Buffy gave a short laugh. “I didn’t literally mean a bus, Giles. ”

“Oh, yes, right. Well, it does change a few things. Location for one, as we need to return to London. I will need to go through… things there.” Giles stopped short of mentioning Quentin Travers and his house and office, though searching those was top priority. He made a mental note that he would initially send Andrew, and some of the girls who had not been at Bjoutan.

“We had quite a good location at St. Margaret’s, so housing and training facilities will not be a problem,” he mused thoughtfully. “There is plenty of room there for everyone.”

“So London instead of Rome then?” she asked, idly studying the pink polish on her fingernails. “When? Do I need to change flights, take a train, what?”

“No, no. We’ll meet your flight in Rome, and return by train to Tuscany. We still have things to pack up here, and that will take several more days,” he explained.

“Anything you need me to do here, or should I bring anything? I’ve already been asked to bring Sour Patch kids. I had not idea those were some sort of American specialty. Though, who’d really want to import them now that I think about it…”

“I’ve already been in touch with Wesley. He’s helping to assemble all of the necessary paperwork for business entitle and property titles, to ensure the legitimacy of the organization. He may have something he will need to send with you, though all of the paperwork that requires a signature he assured me we will be able to do through fax and email.” Giles replied thoughtfully, searching his mind for anything he might need for her to bring.

“Okay. I’ll see Wes. And remember, flight on Thursday so you have until then to ask for any other American treats.”

Giles chuckled. “I’ll keep that in mind.”


Missing persons found, two; vampires in nest dusted, three; feeling like a Slayer with a capital S again, priceless.

Buffy smiled, her step lighter than it had been in a while. She’d been on her game tonight, and it felt good. Really good. Life was far from perfect, but things were definitely on the upswing.

Turning the corner, she was halfway to the entrance when she saw Angel. He was standing near the tall iron gates of the cemetery, his hands tucked in the pockets of his dark coat, an unreadable expression on his face.

She couldn’t help it; her smile widened. Her hair fluttered in the breeze as she picked up her pace. No one else would understand her joy tonight, and there was no one else she would rather share her joy with, regardless of everything that still hung between them. For a moment it was as though they were back in Sunnydale all those years ago, when they would meet in the night and patrol, or talk, or engage in more intimate pursuits.

“Hi,” he said simply. He could sense her elation and it cheered him.

“Hey,” Buffy answered somewhat innocuously. She watched him for a moment, her gaze wary.

“You did great tonight,” he offered, admitting he had been lurking in the shadows, still not able to shake his concern, still not able to be far from her.

“You were watching me?” she asked, though she already knew the answer. She had known the very minute he arrived in the deserted cemetery behind her.

“I was,” Angel replied without a hint of remorse, though he scrutinized her carefully, ensuring she hadn’t suffered even the slightest of injuries.

“You shouldn’t, you know.” Buffy adjusted the cuffs on her jacket then hooked her thumbs in the shoulder straps of her backpack.

“I know. I’m sorry.” He felt in step beside her, their footsteps silent in the dark night as they walked along the dirt path along the fence and away from the gate.

“No you’re not,” she admonished softly, unable to keep the smile from her lips.

“No…” he acknowledged with a lift of his shoulders. “I’ve always liked to watch you, fight or otherwise. And I will always worry about you – more so until we…”

“Until we what?” the blonde slayer prompted when Angel trailed off. She cast a glance at him out of the corner of her eye.

Tucking his hands in his pockets, he asked instead, “You’re leaving tomorrow?”

“Nice on the evasive attempt. And yes, I am,” Buffy replied, her tone subdued. Shaking off the reservations she had about leaving, and her concerns for the unknown future ahead, she reminded him again, “You were saying, until we-“

He stopped walking and inhaled deeply. “Until we find who was behind your…”

“Sojourn in the place I don’t want to think about,” she finished for him, turning to look up at him.

“Yeah.” A muscle twitched in his clenched jaw.

“Angel… bad stuff has jumped out at my from every corner since… well, pretty much as long as I can remember. It’s always going to be part of my life,” she offered, hoping to alleviate his concerns as much as her own. “I just… I want to live my life. To do that, I can’t let this – any of this – own me.”

“I know, but you don’t have to do it alone.”

“Maybe, I don’t know.” Buffy shrugged her shoulders, unconvinced. She shook away the thoughts and turned the conversation to something less fraught with emotion. “You talked to Giles. Do you really think reforming the Council is a good idea?”

“I think it’s the best solution. Giles leading it … at least keeps it focused on what’s best for the girls. Sorry, women,” he corrected with a hint of amusement.

“I know… it’s just… kind of weird to me I guess. I still think of the Council as musty evil old men.”

“It’s good that you’re going.”

Buffy tilted her head, watching him. “Is that one of those – out of harms way – things?”

“You leaving… is the last thing I want,” he replied, taking a step closer to her and brushing a stray hair away from her cheek.  “But Giles will need your help and your perspective in setting up the new Council will be invaluable. The other girls will benefit from your training and just having you around. Beside that, you haven’t seen much of your sister… I’m sure she’s going to appreciate having some time with you.”

“I know,” she said quietly.

“I’ll miss you,” he offered after a moment, his voice low and intimate.

She would miss him too, and wanted to say so but couldn’t. Not tonight. She searched her mind instead for something to say. “But things are always busy at Evil, Inc.”

Angel shrugged slightly. “I’ll still miss you.”

“And um, so how is Elise?” Buffy turned and started again down the path along the cemetery fence to complete her final last sweep of the grounds.

“Her vitals are improving, but there’s not much change,” he answered quietly.

“Do they think she’ll ever recover?” Pausing, Buffy squinted into the distance and clutched her stake, raising her arm in case there was something ahead of them in the dark.

When a small mouse scurried across the path, they relaxed their guard.

“They aren’t sure. She’ll probably still have some permanent disability if she does.”

“I’m sorry,” the blonde Slayer replied, unsure what more to say. What had happened to the author was bad, and she was sorry it had happened. Unfortunately, not unlike it had been with Cordelia, Angel seemed to be saddled with yet another person to take care of.

“Buffy… I’m grateful to her, for being the one that led to us finding you. And I want to make sure she’s cared for. But you need to know, I don’t love her. She’s not the woman I want to spend my life with.”

Her heart leapt with joy at his words, but logic and prior hurts prevailed and she took a deep, calming breath. She paused, turning once more to face him. “Angel, I…”

“I know you still need time,” he interjected before she could finish. “I know. But I want you to have this.”

Buffy blinked and stared dumbly at the faint gleam of the silver object in his hand, barely visible in the scant moonlight.

“I found it in the limo, after you had disappeared.”

Her gaze lifted and she looked into his dark eyes.

“I don’t expect this to change anything.” He stepped closer, lifting his hand. “But this is yours. I gave it to you years ago out of love, for your birthday.”

“I remember.” She whispered softly, bittersweet memories washing over her as her eyes welled with tears. She put her hand on his.“It was another time, almost like this one… only you were leaving, and we didn’t know for how long, or even if we’d see each other again.”

I should go the rest of the way alone.

Okay.

But I’ll be back. I will.

When? Six months, a year? You don’t know how long it’s gonna take or if we’ll even…

Hey… If we’ll even what?

Well, if you haven’t noticed, someone pretty much always wants us dead.

Don’t say that. We’ll be fine.

We don’t know that.

We can’t know, Buffy. Nobody can. That’s just the deal. I have something for you. For your birthday. I… I was gonna give it to you earlier, but…

 

Lightly, he brushed a tear away from her cheek with his thumb. “I know. But we will.”

Sniffling and wiping at the tears in her eyes, Buffy took the ring from him and almost reverently slipped it on her finger. It was one of those small things she missed so very much.

Angel noted that she had put it on with the heart pointing toward her, and he wondered briefly if she remembered the significance of the orientation. He lifted her hand and pressed a kiss to her knuckle, just above the polished silver.

Rising up on her toes, she brushed his lips softly with hers. Angel’s eyes met hers as he reached up to gently grip her shoulders, drawing her closer.

When his lips settling on hers, Buffy felt a familiar warmth stirring in the pit of her stomach. Closing her eyes, she sighed softly at the velvety, heated caress of his tongue when it finally entered her mouth, exploring and licking with tantalizing slowness.

Her hands came up to grip the lapels of his jacket and she tugged him close, leaning into him. When Angel changed the slant of his head, deepening their kiss, Buffy eagerly responded with a raw passion that matched his own.

Several slow, lingering and passionate kisses later, Angel reluctantly lifted his head. Clutching her hand, he pressed his lips to her fingers once again, pleased beyond measure to see his ring in it’s rightful place.

“Mm. We should go,” Buffy murmured, finally finding her voice. She took a deep, steadying breath.

Nodding, Angel agreed but he didn’t release her hand until they reached the gate.


Spike stepped out of the shadows just after Buffy slipped through the cemetery gates and turned the corner heading in the direction of the Wolfram & Hart office.

“Eavesdropping?” Angel asked without looking at the blonde vampire, his eyes still trained on the exact spot where Buffy had disappeared. Slowly he followed, uncomfortable to think she might get too far out of sight.

“Yeah, well, I thought it was my night on watch.”

Angel grunted softly, unconvinced by the excuse.

“Things seem a bit better between the two of you,” Spike commented as they walked. “She’s getting better. Slaying, she’s nearly one hundred percent.”

“She is,” the taller vampire agreed easily.

“And it’s good, I think, Giles being the one to set up the Council… Right thing.”

“Yeah. It’s better than any other alternative,” Angel confirmed in answer.

“Also good, her getting away from the City of Angels for a bit while we try to sort out the rest of this mess.”

Casting a disgruntled look at Spike, the dark vampire replied, “I know. But I don’t like it. I don’t like her being alone.”

“Alone?” Spike scoffed. “She’ll be in the middle of an army of slayers. That’s pretty much every little vampire and demon’s nightmare.”

Angel sighed. “Slayers still in training, with little to no real fighting experience to their credit, some still reliving the nightmare that was the Bjoutan prison.”

“Huh. So, then I guess I’m off to London, eh?”

“Yeah.”

To be continued…